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Biodegradability of Landfilled MSW in EU: Past, Present and Future | OMICS International
ISSN: 2155-6199
Journal of Bioremediation & Biodegradation

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Biodegradability of Landfilled MSW in EU: Past, Present and Future

Elena Cristina Rada*
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
Corresponding Author : Elena Cristina Rada
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Trento, Via Mesiano 77
I-38050 Trento, Italy
Tel: +39 0461282605
Fax: +39 0461282672
E-mail: [email protected]
Received August 24, 2012; Accepted August 27, 2012; Published August 29, 2012
Citation: Rada EC (2012) Biodegradability of Landfilled MSW in EU: Past, Present and Future. J Bioremed Biodeg 3:e122. doi: 10.4172/2155-6199.1000e122
Copyright: © 2012 Rada EC. This is an open-a ccess article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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Abstract

Landfilling is still the most common municipal solid waste (MSW) management option in many European Union (EU) countries. In last few years, with the introduction of the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) and the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), the situation is changing. Indeed, apart from a series of priorities related to prevention, recycling and reuse, all the waste must be pre-treated before its disposal and a few targets have been introduced concerning the decrease of the biodegradable materials allowed for landfilling: 50% less before 2013 and 65% less before 2020, setting the reference quantity as the one in 1995.

Landfilling is still the most common municipal solid waste (MSW) management option in many European Union (EU) countries. In last few years, with the introduction of the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) and the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), the situation is changing. Indeed, apart from a series of priorities related to prevention, recycling and reuse, all the waste must be pre-treated before its disposal and a few targets have been introduced concerning the decrease of the biodegradable materials allowed for landfilling: 50% less before 2013 and 65% less before 2020, setting the reference quantity as the one in 1995.
The variations of the characteristics of the landfill waste are expected to change significantly, the local and the global environmental impacts. Until now, biogas generation has been a big problem from the environmental point of view because of fugitive emissions of methane and other polluting gases. In the future, thanks to the decrease of the biodegradability of the acceptable materials to be landfilled, this problem may become negligible. For this reason, the second problem of landfills, leachate, is expected to become the major emission pathway. However, the leachate characteristics are also expected to change: from one side, its biodegradability will be reduced steadily; from the other side, the decrease in landfilling of biodegradable materials means that the inorganic pollutants may become relatively more pronounced.
Coming back to the biogas issue, the new landfills will be no longer bioreactors which are able to supply a fuel for energy purposes. The landfilling option for MSW will increase its costs because of pretreatment requirement and absence of energy recovery from biogas. A partial balance of costs could come from the leachate treatment: potential advantages are expected as its characteristics should be the same for the future landfills during all their life time, simplifying its management.
In the MSW sector, the following questions related to leachate and biogas that will be produced in the new landfills, represent the main topics on the carpet and the priorities of the international research:
• How much the gaseous emissions of the landfilled biodegradable materials will be different from the one from conventional landfills? Their release [1] could decrease one order of magnitude, with higher results for specific pollutants related to the composition of food wastes (e.g. ammonia).
• How much leachate will have to be treated in the future? Detailed monitoring campaigns [2], supported with enhanced tools can allow the understanding of the hydraulic effects of modifications in landfilled waste characteristics.
• How the treatment strategy for leachate will change? Physicalchemical processes will become dominant in the treatment schemes [3], without differences between young and old landfills.
• Will the landfill bioremediation be an option for the recovery of the new landfill sites where environmental problems should emerge? This approach [4] will be used less in EU for MSW landfills to be remediated, but it will be more and more used for other site remediation actions [5].
• Can pre-treatment before landfilling be avoided if selective collection of food wastes will adequately decrease its percentage in the landfilled waste? This matter is controversial because an agreed point of view has not yet been reached in the sector, each EU country counting on different existing treatment plants [6].
• Will the biogas collection criteria change? The biogas collection network [7] will be designed for a lower flow-rate as a consequence of its reduced generation. From an extreme point of view the biogas collection in the new landfills could be replaced by a top filtering layer.
• Will the landfill location criteria change? To this concern, the latest tools [8] allow a deeper analysis that can take full advantage of their lower impact.
• How the acceptability criteria can be guaranteed for the next landfills? One of the options could be the use of the biodegradability concept as main characterising parameter for all the landfilled materials through the respirometric index. In spite of the above pictured scenario reporting a decreasing amount of the landfilled biodegradable materials, the respirometric index has been shown to be more important in the waste sector as proved by the evolution of the Solid Recovery Fuel characterization that now needs the adoption of a real dynamic respirometric index [9].
Finally, as an opportunity to increase the know-how of the sector, the open access journals and specifically OMICS Group activities are contributing to have a complete scientific answer to the above questions.
 
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